Austra's two sold out shows in Berlin are expressive of the band's massive appeal in a city that thrives upon innovative music programming, anachronisms of the 1980s, and advocation for LGBT acceptance. Touring behind the sophomore album Olympia, an effort that features all of the aforementioned three, Katie Stelmanis and company delivered a set of darkly emotional synthpop that did not disappoint either night. Classically voice-trained as a child, with a partiality toward gloomy themes, Canadian Katie Stelmanis' laptop dabbling resulted in Austra's 2011 debut Feel It Break, which achieved remarkable success. Now on Olympia, Stelmanis has not only dropped the bleak moods of the first album, but discarded the backing tracks in favor of actual instrumentation rather than computer-driven guidance. In doing, so the band now displays a more human presence, as Stelmanis has relinquished more freedom to the rest of the band to apply musical coloration to her robust voice. October 28th, 2013 @ Heimathafen Neukölln in Berlin, Germany

Although Asheville, NC certainly has a diverse music scene, the city sitting in the hills of Blue Ridge Mountains is probably more well known for its pickers and strummers than it is for its turntablists and synth wizards. That is, except for once a year, when Moogfest comes to town and celebrates the art of the electronic in honor of synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog, whose foundation and burial site are both located in the artsy mountain town. Moogfest took a break this year in order to regroup, change promoters and pick itself up out of the brisk air of autumn and move itself to the promising days of spring (it will be held April 25-27 in 2014). Into its silent void flowed Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit , a three-day electronicaganza (promoted by Bonaroo-bringers, AC Entertainment) that delivered a variety of both big-name acts and up-and-comers. The gigs were held in various venues throughout the city, which helped create different pools of mood you could dive into and out of throughout the weekend, from the stadium-like Exploreasheville.com Arena (formerly the Civic Center) and Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (both of which comprise the US Cellular Center—confused yet?) to the intimate and indie-feeling Asheville Music Hall. Acts overlapped each night, so decisions had to be made, but for the most part, it was possible to groove to a broad mix of sounds from about six to past midnight each night. Here's my extensive recap of the entire experience over the three days.
 
FRIDAY

Jacques Greene

For me, the festival got off to a bit of an unpleasant bass-blasting start. I began with a bit of Jacques Greene at the Orange Peel before getting pretty much "bassed out" of the venue. Greene is a 21-year-old house producer from Montreal who manned the decks on stage. His tracks definitely grooved, but the bass was so severely accentuated that it was hard to take in any of the other sounds he was unleashing. You definitely felt the music, but actually hearing it was another story.  

Purity Ring

So I chalked things up to the sound engineer possibly being more comfortable with larger spaces and trotted across town to largest venue in the mix, the ExploreAsheville.com Arena to catch Purity Ring. This Canadian duo has been turning heads since the July 24 release of their first album, Shrines, and features Corin Roddick on the decks and Megan James on vocals. Roddick's arrangements are deep and icy, full of cycled vocal samples and echoey deep-space synth. Above this, tethered by a thick cord of bass, James' sweeter-than-Bjork voice floated. Again, there were times when that low-end tether was a little too thick, smothering the lyrics and turning James' sweet and sometimes spooky voice into just another component in the wash of sound. But it's hard to tell if that was intentional or just another case of bad mixing. On Purity Ring's recorded work, the vocals are often smeared deeply into the music, so the lyrics don't always pop. What did pop on stage were the pod-like lanterns that the duo both played with drum sticks, getting a satisfying percussive boom from each.  

Deltron 3030

Next up, in the same venue, was Deltron 3030. As opposed to the Purity Ring duo who looked a little dwarfed on the big stage, Deltron staffed the scene with a full string section, a horn section, guitars and four back-up singers lending support to the stars of the supergroup: Del the Funky Homo Homosapien and Dan the Automator (both of who've been part of Gorillaz), as well as DJ Kid Koala. The squadrons of sound they constructed moved the audience and my whole body: the guitar hooks worked my hips; Kid's scratches jiggled my head from side to side; the horns got my shoulders shrugging; and the drum beats took care of the rest. Del's lyrics tickled my brain too. I say tickled because — you guessed it — most of them were buried beneath not just the bass, but by the weight of all that sound. One of the clearest vocal moments came when Dan the Automator, dressed in tails and conducting the band with a baton, taught the audience the verse: "Deltron is our hero; if he can't do it nobody can." It was our part to play as they told their futuristic rock opera staring Deltron Zero. But I suppose at this point in the night words were becoming meaningless anyway, and you really didn't need any instructions to enjoy the Deltron ride.
I will say that the bass overload from the night did cause me to miss Bassnectar who manned the stage after Detron. The beams and batting in the ceiling out by the concession stands were already vibrating in an ugly way from the night's festivities; I didn't really want to stick around to see what might happen when the ace of bass let lose. From what I heard, the set was hot and the building held up.

Clara Moto - Blue DistanceClara Moto Blue Distance InFiné MusicClara Moto's Blue Distance is the Lost In Translation of bass music. It sounds like driving down an endless expanse of black glass highway with the radio on, shooting towards the horizon while memories retreat like tail lights in the rearview. This Austrian producer's second feature-length for InFiné Music revolves around the theme of remoteness, the feeling of endless travel and longing, and the inevitable distance between a performer and her audience. Blue Distance takes its name from a poem by Sylvia Plath, the patron saint of loneliness. This combination of classical poetry and 21st-century electronic music offers a good summary of what one can expect.

What communicative force lies behind the deliberate disfiguration of a photograph? What discourse would otherwise remain mute in original form, were it not liberated through ruin? Brazilian artist and architect Lucas Simões explores topographic aesthetics in fragmented portraiture through his papercut series desretratos ("unportraits") . Overwhelming the voices of intimate friends as they narrated their suppressed secrets, music subtly informed the ambiance of Simões' imagery, but the most significant power of influence was the character of each portrayed individual. Simões slices the temporality of scenes in a person's life, solidifying within one image a progression of time and its evolving lyricism. Within the physical evidence of a single instance, Simões nonetheless relates a series of intensely personal moments. His experiments allude to the inherent capacity of deconstruction as a medium for transcendent visualization.
"In this series of works, I invited intimate friends over to tell me a secret as I took their portrait. However, my intention was not to hear their secret, but to capture the expressions of each one at the moment they revealed their secret. I also asked each one to choose a song for me to listen to in my earphones while I photographed them. And, after the photo session, I asked each one if the secret had a color, and these are the colors the portraits carry. From this photo shooting session, I chose 10 different portraits to cut and overlap." - Lucas Simões
Elements of familiarity -- the curling of a rogue nostril, the glimmer of an irregular tooth, a pupil preserved -- reveal themselves in an otherwise unidentifiable mass of un-face. Adding an intimacy to the dynamics of photographic process, the relationships between Simões and his friends provide yet another palette of interpretations to a multidimensional portraiture. "A nice relationship is when it's full of will to know the other, knowing that you will never discover enough of the other," reflects Simões. "A good relationship keeps its mystery and that is what these portraits represent: mysteries."

While the decommissioning of NASA's space program seems to be an outward indicator of a global lack of interest in the great beyond, one can always look to the arts to realize that the human fascination in space and sci-fi are as strong as they've ever been, if not stronger. This is perhaps most obvious in film: Star Wars and Star Trek are constantly enjoying modern revisions; Gravity recently portrayed space in remarkable new ways; 2001: Space Odyssey is still eternally being cited as influential; the list goes on. In the music world, space's ability to stir the imagination manifests in less obvious ways. Lyrics and band names may pay homage to the stars above, but it is often the wordless feeling between dramatic instrumental music and the final frontier that leads to the most recognizable connection. A recent collaboration between New York's Infinity Shred and director Dean Marcial of the Brooklyn studio Calavera builds off of their mutual interest in the work of Carl Sagan and space, in general. Marcial's 2010 short film, Darkmatter, comprises the grainy first portion of the video and provides its foundation. As the narrative continues, the film's astronauts pass through multiple dimensions, and Marcial uses increasing fidelity and morphing aspect ratios to subtly drive this concept home. The effect of pairing instrumental spaciness with literal images of spaces brings the entire audio-visual experience up to new heights. As the release of films like Gravity lead the world to question whether a film might save NASA, you have to wonder what our fascination will lead us to; for media, that aggregate of collective imaginations, seems to prove that we will never fail to be stirred by space's mysteries. In this dual interview between Infinity Shred's synth master Damon Hardjowirogo and director Dean Marcial, the two sound off on the process behind this music video, the overarching themes, and the scale of it all.

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing toes. This month, the delightfully mysterious Connan Mockasin presents new tracks alongside soulful female musicians Tei Shi and My Midnight Heart, while Belgian Fog, Widowspeak, and Jungle. offer up more.
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Connan Mockasin

If you know what's good for the inner reaches of your unknown mind, get privy to to the music of indie pop's mysterious Connan Mockasin. His upcoming LP, Caramel, is an 11-track record of his spin on lo-fi, almost Ariel Pink-esque bedroom pop -- but Mockasin's spin is always a bit of a strange one. In his singularly cryptic way, he has described the new album's premise, saying, "It starts with the dolphin leaving, and the boss who is so in with love with the dolphin is sad, and then it kicks into the new album, and he is happier. But there’s a car race and a crash." Those of you who have heard his last record, Forever Dolphin Love, will understand the reference. Those of you who haven't... GET ON IT; he made it because his mother told him to. True fact. My interview with him will be published shortly -- but in the meantime, enjoy these two tracks or stream the entire record, out November 5th on Mexican Summer! Photography by Jen Carey

Spectral Hypnosis is a recurring series, featuring mesmerizing songs for one to lose sense of time and space, mind and body. This time: favorite new electronic meanderings from Rival Consoles and Peter Broderick, the consistent and darkly charming universe of ERAAS, the POLIÇA / GAYNGS member side-project Marijuana Deathsquads, and more from Tati Ana and Applescal & Ryan Davis.
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Rival Consoles & Peter Broderick - "Soul"

Rival Consoles' synthy video game percolations meet with the expressive vocals of Portland's Peter Broderick on "Soul", a hypnotic adventure of a track. Taking the isolated vocal foundation from "Proposed Solution to the Mystery of the Soul" off Broderick's 2012 record, These Walls of Mine, this "remix" transforms the minimal, percussive ricochets of the original into its own busy, expressive undulations. Occupying a towering and dynamic sonic space, this track is one of my favorites of the year, and at once makes me want to hear more from Rival Consoles and Peter Broderick -- which is a rare feat for remix tracks, which often retain very little charm from their original inspirations. This track comes from the London producer's EP Odyssey, which you can stream below in its entirety. It is all good, and it's available now on Erased Tapes. Peter Broderick has also just reissued Float 2013, a lovely rework of his modern classical record from 2008, Float. Stream it here.

Shine 2009 - Our Nation Album Review Shine 2009 Our Nation Cascine / Modular Recordings (2013) Shine 2009's sophomore LP, Our Nation, is hard to pin down. Through sampling, instrumentation, and lyrics, Mikko Pykäri and Sami Suova, the Finnish duo behind the album, manage to simultaneously evoke spacey lightness and earthly percussiveness, welcomed nostalgia and contemporary immediacy. The effect is strange but infectious. While assimilating us, for example, to the band's stylistic combination of R&B backing vocals and psych synths is no small feat, Our Nation's lyrics and overall cohesiveness may offer something even more lasting.

Biosexual The Window Wants The Bedroom Debacle Records (2013)
Biosexual - The Window Wants The Room Album Review
"Subculture as we know it is dead and it's all the internet's fault." Chicago producer Johnny Love, aka Deathface, in a recently popular Tumblr post
This is hardly a recent concern; the topic has probably been blogged and tweeted more often than Miley Cyrus. It can be traced back as far as The Microphones' recorded their own We Are The World with 2007 single "Get Off The Internet", and has probably been around since computer's started talking to one another. On The Window Wants The Bedroom, the debut full-length from Biosexual, the trio of prolific sound artist Zac Nelson, along with Michael RJ Saalman and Jocelyn Noir, it seems like Biosexual is more interested in reflecting the surreal state of modern living through information technology than in smashing the system. Biosexual are very much a product of the internet. They cobble together bizarre mutant vocals with surreal lyrics, rigid trap beats, and a chorus of synthesizers that reference at least 5 underground dance movements. Call it technological pop, or breakbeat bricolage, this is the sound of information overload, the result of 10 years of listening to everything under the sun. {{ FULL ALBUM STREAM AFTER THE JUMP }}

Diane Coffee - My Friend FishDiane Coffee My Friend Fish Western Vinyl (2013) Capitalists would have you believe that you need a million dollars and a luxurious studio to create a masterpiece. They would hate the fact that Diane Coffee, the solo project of former child voice actor and drummer for Foxygen, Shaun Fleming, was able to record this psych/soul/gospel-infused gem with pots and pans and detuned guitars in his New York apartment in two weeks, while recovering from the flu.